The Disability Experience - Book of Short Works and Poetry related to Disability,   Author Debbie Johnson

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The Aftermath Part 2: Starting to Think Straight Again

The Aftermath Part 2:

Starting to Think Straight Again 

Slowly, I began to get some of the questions right. The date continued to elude me even though they posted a calendar on my bulletin board. When you are very ill in the hospital, time seems irrelevant. All I was concerned about was the pain I was in and returning to work. I had my cell phone and started receiving several nasty calls each day from bill collectors.  A common question was, “Who is taking care of your affairs?”

My answer, I am. I lived alone, was self-employed. Who did they think was taking care of my affairs?  One company had a computerized call system whereby they harassed me twice a day every day and claimed no human could reset the computer system no matter what the circumstances. This was the beginning of seventeen months of living with no income. Welcome to poverty.

Each day a variety of people would stop in to “assess” me. It seemed endless and none of them provided good news. The doctors were discouraged with my progress and physical and occupational therapy frustrated that I wouldn’t cooperate with their programs because I hurt too much. There was a new nurse’s aide each shift, each not knowing how to care for me. My elusive nurse manager who was supposed to be coordinating my care was the only one I didn't see. I remember her visiting with me only once in the first three weeks. No one cared that I was in excruciating pain. No one really seemed to care about me.

This went on for the next three weeks. Meanwhile, they would wheel me out on a gurney for test after test, never explaining the tests or providing me with the results.  I was very emotional and cried a great deal. The longer I was there, the ruder I became with what seemed like incompetent staff. I spent three weeks laying flat on my back getting weaker and weaker.

After three weeks, the surgeon informed me I was not healing and a second surgery would be required. I cried hysterically while the wound care nurse tried to explain to him why I was upset. He was the coldest and least empathetic healthcare provider I have ever met, and unfortunately, would be in my life for quite some time. The next day, I had surgery number two, a bone graft. They took bone from my hip and grafted it to the fracture site leaving me with two incisions to heal.

The following day, the surgeon informed me that my bone was infected or in medical terminology, I had osteomyelitis. Thus, an infection control physician and IV antibiotics entered the picture. My depression was rapidly getting worse and the tears continued to flow as did frustration and anger.

To be continued…

Posted on Friday, January 11, 2013 12:03 PM

The Aftermath: Part 1

Coming to Consciousness

As my regular readers know, I was badly injured in a car/semi accident on March 16, 2004. I was traveling at highway speed when I lost consciousness due to an electrolyte imbalance and swerved into the oncoming traffic hitting a semi head-on, also traveling at highway speed. That should have been the end of me, but for some reason, it wasn’t. The only thing I remember (or at least think I remember) is the windshield cracking and the crack spreading like a spider web as the glass shattered.

I have no other recollection of the crash, the hour it took for them to cut me out of the wreckage using the Jaws-of-Life, the ambulance trip to the hospital, the tests I had there, the ambulance ride to a trauma center thirty miles away, having my fractured femur (upper leg bone) surgically repaired or the next three days.

The only glimpse of a memory I have during that time is the hospital staff trying to find out what next of kin they should notify. Unable to tell them, I vaguely remember handing them my cell phone so they could try and figure it out.

Three days after the accident, I woke up needing to go to the bathroom. Not realizing I was injured, I was angry with the nurse who shoved me back in bed and told me I couldn’t walk as I had a broken leg. After that I slipped back into unconsciousness.

My next memory is of a doctor rudely waking me up and asking me:

·        Who I was?

·        Where I was?

·        What had happened to me?

·        Was it a suicide attempt (a question I would hear over and over again due to my history of depression)?

·        Where did I live?

·        What day it was?

·        Who was my next of kin?

I remember this, but at the time was in a fog and unable to answer any of the questions. I remember them hanging a dry erase white board on the wall and writing down the appropriate answers to help me. Each time I woke up, they would ask me the questions again, but I couldn’t recall that I was to look at the dry erase board to find the answers.

The doctors and nurses were growing more and more frustrated and so was I. It still seems strange that I retain these memories now, while I could retrieve nothing of my past at the time. I became more and more frightened, frustrated and angry. I did know two things, I lived alone and I needed to go to work to support myself as I was self-employed.

As I was awake more, I became aware of the incredible pain I was in and begged for pain medicine which they didn’t want to give me due to my confusion. I still couldn’t answer any of their questions and spent most of the time I was awake angry, confused, in pain, and in tears.

To be continued…

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